South Korea has been waging a war against COVID-19 for the last 45 days since the first patient was confirmed with the virus on January 20. As of Tuesday, the situation is dire in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province where 4,285 cases, 89 percent of the confirmed patients, are concentrated. Medical staff swamped with heavy workload suffer burnout and the provision of hospital beds cannot catch up with a sharp increase in the number of patients. But citizens in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province are keeping calm in the middle of this disaster, and the outpouring support from across the country is giving patients hopes to overcome the virus.
Citizens in the severely affected region are showing mature civic consciousness and defying the fear even though the number of patients are increasing by the hundreds every day. They calmly line up to buy masks and do not fight against each other even when their hospitalization is delayed. Most citizens are keeping distance each other and helping out when restaurants in their neighborhood suffered a loss. Hospitals and clinics in downtown Daegu are not closing despite the risk of infection and increasing deficits to provide medical services to citizens. Dongsan Medical Center evacuated the facility and volunteered to care COVID-19 patients, while students of Daegu Catholic University delivered lunchboxes for senior citizens living alone when the welfare system was paralyzed due to the virus.
Our society is sending support to Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province with all heart. South Korean citizens are consoling each other, instead of discriminating patients. The special fund for COVID-19 patients raised by the Community Chest of Korea already exceeded 27 billion won in less than 10 days. When a recipient of national living subsidies cancelled her insurance policy and donated 1.19 million won, a Daegu citizen made side dishes and sent to her after reading an article. Elementary school students in Yangcheon District, Seoul also donated their pocket money for citizens in Daegu and North Gyeongsang region.
Medical professionals across the country are volunteering to take care of patients to help staff in the most affected region. An accommodation business owner provided them a place to stay, while masks, drinks and packed food are piled up at the Daegu Medical Center and Dongsan Medical Center.
Even though citizens are keeping a physical distance, their psychological distance is diminishing. South Korea has demonstrated sufficient strength every time there was a national crisis including the gold collection campaign in the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the 2007 oil spill in Taean and the blood donation drive for MERS in 2015. Their support for each other is breeding hopes that we can overcome the virus.